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Walnut Ridge Regional Airport to Celebrate 81st Anniversary

Festivities to Include Rare CAF P-22 Recruit Trainer

Upon its 1942 opening, Arkansas’s Walnut Ridge Airfield served as a U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) Basic Flying School. Spanning some 3,096 acres and boasting hundreds of buildings and no fewer than five auxiliary airfields, the installation was the largest flight-school in the USAAC’s Southeast Training Command.  

Now known as Walnut Ridge Regional Airport (ARG), the facility will celebrate its 81st anniversary on 14 October 2023. The milestone event, to which all pilots, aircraft owners, aviation enthusiasts, and history buffs are cordially invited, will feature an appearance by the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) Ryan PT-22 aircraft.

Assigned to the CAF’s Razorback Wing, the aircraft is a rare extant specimen of the PT-22 Recruit—as it was appositely dubbed by USAAC brass—the military iteration of the Ryan ST and the primary trainer aircraft utilized by the Army Air Corps throughout the 1930s and ‘40s.

The P-22’s fuselage comprises a simple monocoque structure overlaid with a heavy-gauge alclad skin. Alclad is a corrosion-resistant aluminum sheet formed from high-purity aluminum surface layers metallurgically bonded to a high-strength aluminum-alloy core material. The aircraft’s wings feature spruce spars, aluminum-alloy ribs, and steel compression members. The wings’ anterior aspects—from leading-edge to spar—are covered in aluminum-alloy sheet. Conversely, from spar to trailing-edge, the wings are skinned with doped aircraft fabric.

The P-22 Recruit was powered by a single, 160-horsepower, naturally-aspirated, air-cooled, five-cylinder, radial, Kinner R-540 engine. So motivated, the 1,860-pound (maximum take-off weight) aircraft managed an 87-knot maximum level-flight speed. In a power-on dive, however, the P-22 could be pushed to a decidedly livelier 170-knots. Vso stall-speed was a docile 54-knots, while service-ceiling was set at 15,400-feet. Fully-fueled, the P-22 had an advertised range of 201-nautical-miles.

Modest performance notwithstanding, the P-22 provided a solid platform by dint of which innumerable aspiring aviators developed rudimentary flying skills and air-sense prior to transitioning into fearsome machines the likes of Warhawks, Mustangs, Corvairs, and Lightnings.

The upcoming 81st anniversary of Walnut Ridge Regional Airport (née Walnut Ridge Airfield) will serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of military aviation and a poignant reminder of the importance of the historic airfields upon and over which generations of American combat pilots trained diligently to defend a nation.

An American institution, the Commemorative Air Force is a non-profit organization comprising over 13,000 members and pilots who, together, maintain and operate 170-classic aircraft—the world’s largest collection of warbirds.

Year-round, at air-shows and fly-over events, Commemorative Air Force personnel and aircraft delight and inspire legions of onlookers while paying homage to the aviators and warfighters upon whose valor these United States were borne to greatness, and by whose sacrifices they remain, ostensibly, free.

FMI: www.commemorativeairforce.org


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